How Solar Charkha Mission is keeping alive Mahatma Gandhi's belief in production by the masses

This Gandhi Jayanti, read about how the Government in 2018 started implementing the Solar Charkha Mission through 50 clusters, where every cluster has the capacity to employ upto 2,000 spinners and artisans.

Mahatma Gandhi spinning yarn on a charkha

Around the late 1890s, British control over the Indian textile industry resulted in a large influx of mass-produced, foreign textiles into the nation. This threatened the local textile economy (which comprised numerous but small weavers and spinners), ultimately sparking protests to liberate India from its colonisers.

During these years, the charkha, a portable, hand-cranked wheel for spinning cotton, emerged as a symbol for self-sufficiency and independence.

It became the tool brought into wider use by freedom activist Mahatma Gandhi through his teachings.

However, post Independence, India's textile industry started to become more industrialised and capable of mass-producing fabrics and clothes.

But a large section of weavers and artisans continued to use hand-spun charkhas, which were time-consuming and inefficient.

To improve productivity and incentivise the sector, the Government in 2018 started implementing the Solar Charkha Mission through 50 clusters, where every cluster has the capacity to employ upto 2,000 spinners and artisans.

The solar-powered charkhas used in these clusters are more productive than hand-spun ones and minimise the physical labour required in spinning the yarn.

This Gandhi Jayanthi, read how the Solar Charkha Mission is keeping Gandhi's charkha alive in a new, solar-powered form and paying homage to his belief in production by the masses, and not in mass production.

Objectives of the scheme

The Solar Charkha Mission aims to ensure inclusive growth by generation of employment, especially for women and youth, and sustainable development through solar charkha clusters in rural areas. It seeks to boost rural economies and help in arresting migration from rural to urban areas. It also aims to leverage low-cost, innovative technologies, and processes to provide sustenance for the target groups.

At an event last year, then-MSME Minister Giriraj Singh said about the mission:

"The textile sector is the biggest employment generating sector and the government is aiming to apply the model of decentralising the production of yarn in it. In order to provide employment to women weavers and help them to earn about Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000, the government has also set up sample projects in Bihar’s Nevada region and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh."

How it works

Launched in June 2018, Solar Charkha mission is a Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) initiative and is implemented by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).

Based on the success of a 2016 pilot project, relevant Government bodies approved the setting up of 50 clusters with a budget of Rs 550 crore for 2018-19 and 2019-20. KVIC information states the clusters refer to a focal village and other surrounding villages in a radius of eight to 10 kilometers.

Each cluster can have upto around 2,000 beneficiaries, including spinners, weavers, stitches, and other skilled artisans.

Under the scheme, each spinner will be given two charkhas of 10 spindles each. On an average, it is considered that a cluster will have about 1000 charkhas and provide direct employment to 2042 artisans. At scale, the scheme is envisaged to generate direct employment nearly to one lakh persons in the 50 clusters.

Implemented in all states, the Government aims to set up at least 10 percent of the clusters in the North Eastern Region (NER), Jammu and Kashmir, and hilly states.

Project financials

KVIC states one cluster will involve a maximum subsidy of Rs 9.59 crore, and the scheme covers three kinds of interventions:

Capital subsidy for individual and for Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV)

Under this, 2,000 solar charkhas at a maximum price of Rs 45,000 each and a subsidy of Rs 15,750 per charkha works out to a total subsidy of Rs 3.15 crore for 1000 spinners, according to government estimates.

One unit of two solar charkhas would produce two kg of yarn each day on average per day, resulting in a production of two tonnes per 2,000 charkhas. 500 solar looms would be required to convert the yarn into fabric at the maximum price of Rs 1.1 lakh per loom and subsidy of 35 percent (Rs 38,500 per loom). The cumulative subsidy then works out to Rs 1.93 crore for 500 weavers.

The capital cost of construction of a workshed, with a minimum space of 20,000 sq ft, with 100 percent subsidy can go upto Rs 1.2 crore per cluster for the SPV.

Also, capital cost of a solar grid of 50 KW capacity with 100 percent subsidy can go upto Rs 0.40 crore per cluster for the SPV.

A one-time capital cost subsidy for the SPV at 35 percent works out to a maximum of Rs 0.75 crore per cluster for the purchase of twisting machines, dying machines, and stitching machines (500 in number) for making the unit self-sustainable and for value addition.

Interest subvention for working capital

It is proposed to have a ceiling of eight percent interest subvention on working capital, irrespective of the interest rates being charged by banks and financial Institutions, for a period of six months. Recurring working capital cost for a period of six months at the rate of interest subvention of eight percent works out to Rs 1.58 crore for one cluster, including cost of roving, wages of spinners, and weavers.

Capacity building

The scheme also envisages courses for spinners, weavers, and others involved in the unit, at a total cost of Rs 0.595 crore per cluster over a period of two years.


Whom to contact

Solar Charkha Project / Solar Vastra Cell

Khadi & Village Industries Commission

Ministry of MSME, Govt. of India

3 Gramodaya, Irla Road , Vile Parle (West)

Mumbai - 400056

Ph No: 022-26707083

e-mail :


Individuals or existing khadi institutions can apply but they have to meet a range of parameters.

Click here for the complete set of eligibility guidelines.

Click here for revised guidelines about the Solar Charkha Mission.

Click here for more information on the Solar Charkha Mission.

(Edited by: Palak Agarwal)


Updates from around the world